A crime


In this photo of the back of our car, you can see the outlines of where a car magnet had once been. That magnet was political. It said, “Hillary ’16.” The reason you don’t see it there is because someone in the parking lot of our hotel in Pittsburgh thought it’d be a good idea to remove the magnet.

At first we thought it was stolen. We felt victimized — doubly so, considering who won. Being back in western Pennsylvania, though, it seemed likely that some Tr*mp supporter feeling embolden but also a coward thought he or she would just rip off someone else’s property. We later did find the magnet face-down in the rain-soaked parking lot, as if it had been flung away from our car.

In the grand scheme of things, I know it isn’t that big of a deal. But still, come on.


A vision of America: Witnessing divisiveness together

Debate Watch Party
Debate Watch Party (Photo by Andrzej Pilaczyk)

How are college kids approaching this election? Where I work, we’ve had debate watching parties open to the public. The communal experience of watching the debates have been eye-opening for students, who say that they value the ability to share the moment with hundreds of others, to see in real life and in real time how others — fellow students and members of the community — respond to the words of the two major party political candidates.

The togetherness, the shared experience, are a vivid contradiction to the divisiveness of the campaigns. They are a moment of hope. More photos are here.

The next Debate Watch Party is at 9 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016. More info here.


Book review: Harry Frankfurt’s ‘On B.S.’

The following book review originally appeared in the July 31, 2005, edition of the Albany Times Union. A recent op-ed in The Washington Post by Fareed Zakaria called “The unbearable stench of Trump’s B.S.” references the book in describing the extreme lack of concern for the truth in statements from the Republican presidential candidate. The book, though, isn’t about Trump in general; rather, it is a challenge to everyone to examine how we may add to the world’s B.S. through our own contributions or by allowing others to get away with it.

k7929‘Hot air’ philosophy brings world into focus
By Michael Janairo

For reasons that will be obvious, the title — and thus the subject — of the book in this review cannot be printed in its entirety in a family friendly newspaper such as the Times Union.

That word (think bovine excrement), the author writes, is sometimes replaced by humbug, balderdash, claptrap, hokum, drivel, buncombe, imposture or quackery . But the book rightly calls these words “less intense” and suggests they have more to do with “considerations of gentility” than the phenomenon to which they refer. They lack the sharpness and subversion inherent in the vulgarity.

Continue reading “Book review: Harry Frankfurt’s ‘On B.S.’”

Fun with numbers, primary-election style

As the primaries continue, I was wondering about turnout. Everyone says turnout is so important. Is there a connection between primary turnout and general election turnout? And how many people have the early voting states turned out?

I wanted numbers:

From the Des Moines Register on the Iowa caucuses:

Republicans counted more than 180,000 caucusgoers, topping their 2012 attendance record of 121,503 by an estimated 60,000 people.

But they didn’t have the Democratic Party numbers. I found those on Bustle.com:

Many precincts were delayed in reporting the Democratic results, but early Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party announced that171,109 Iowans participated in its caucuses. That’s a fall from 2008, which saw 239,000 vote in the Democratic caucuses throughout the state.

For New Hampshire, I found this from the Union Leader:

A record 542,459 ballots were cast Feb. 9, including a record number of Republican ballots: 287,683. Democrats cast 254,776 ballots, well below their record of 288,672 in 2008.

And for Nevada, Bustle.com reported the Republican turnout:

More than 75,000 Nevada Republicans caucused Tuesday night

AP had the figures on the Democratic side:

Officials say about 84,000 Nevada Democrats participated in Saturday’s caucuses, which is nearly 30 percent fewer than in 2008.

So it seemed like a thing – that the primaries were bringing out more Republicans than Democrats. And if turnout is so important, then maybe this isn’t a good thing for Democrats?

Then I read this in Vox:

The first is historical. Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida and a voter turnout guru, notes that in 2000 the Republican primary turnout ran ahead of that for Democrats (by around 3 million votes), and yet Al Gore won the popular vote over George Bush.

And that was echoed on NPR.com:

McDonald pointed out that in 2000, Republican primary turnout was much heavier than it was for Democrats — and that election between George W. Bush and Al Gore ended up essentially deadlocked until the Supreme Court intervened.

So the stories were basically trying to say that there isn’t a strong relationship between primary and general election turnout. That the percentage of registered voters voting in primaries and caucuses is far lower than the number expected for the general election, and still far lower than number of registered voters. Then again, only 55 percent of the voting eligible population actually voted in 2012.

Being reminded of the 2000 vote, decided by the Supreme Court? Not very encouraging. If only more people voted.


“ET HE UGLY RUTH” courtesy of a sponsored ad on Twitter


A young person I know recently said something along the lines that Twitter was going down the drain. I don’t where that idea came from. I’ve been using Twitter since Sept. 19, 2008. (which is longer than 99.755% of all other Twitter users, according to http://twopcharts.com/howlongontwitter).

Perhaps the young person was thinking of sponsored contents like the ad here from the Alliance for Quality Education of New York. I ignore most Twitter ads but this one got me because of the words “ET HE UGLY RUTH.”
Continue reading ““ET HE UGLY RUTH” courtesy of a sponsored ad on Twitter”